Friday 1 June 2012

Edinburgh Fringe programme - looking forward and back

The Edinburgh Fringe programme is out, I have it here in my hands, and it is as exciting as ever. And as always it begins the process of getting excited about the shows, and a little introspection and retrospection. Introspection is easy enough: I haven't finished writing the show, so I'd better get a move on.

Retrospection involves me looking back at such things as the 2009 Preview season which I recorded quite meticulously and which I hope to emulate this year. Reassuring to see how wary I was about trying out material in 2009 which turned out to be so popular we still do it, and how I was clinging onto material like Kraftwerk which, once dropped, I haven't even thought about since.

Another bit of retrospection in which I indulge reguarly is a glance back at the Fringe programmes of old. I happen to have the programme from 1984, the very first year we went up as punters. So, so different, as you can see...

I've only just realised that 1984 front cover depicts clowning, acrobats, singing, physical theatre, puppetry and music. No stand up. The Edfringe programme in 1984 was 74 pages long, whereas the 2012 book runs to 378 pages. And in 1984 the full list of every show on in Edinburgh took just two pages. Two pages!! In 2012, the alphabetical list of shows, written in a typeface so small and condensed a lot of older punters will need their reading specs on to make it out, fills up 13 pages.

In 1984 Theatre shows take up 2 and a half columns, Comedy takes up just a third of a column - and includes Accidental Death Of An Anarchist and Comedy Of Errors. In 2012 the proportions are: Comedy 36%, Theatre 28%, Music 13%, Musicals/Opera 4%, Childrens 4%, Physical/Dance 4% Cabaret 4%, Spoken Word 1%, Art 1% And look at those other 1984 categories: Revue. Cabaret (including Alexei Sayle)? Mime? The past really was a foreign country.

Nowadays the display ads by, mostly, comedy shows, are ubiquituous and colourful. In 1984 there was only one display ad booked by a solo comedy act.

It was, naturally, black and white. And this was it:

We went to that gig. Alexei Sayle died on his arse, the show having been papered and being peopled by drunks from the street who didn't get him. And look at those ticket prices. Three whole quid? The cheek.

Here's the rest of what passed for "comedy off the telly". The only other display ad booked by comedy shows in 1984:

St Marys Hall? (Don't look for it, it's not there any more). And whatever became of Paul Martin? He seemed quite promising.

And this is what was on at the Pleasance in 1984.

The Edinburgh Fringe remains as exciting as ever, and seeing the developments over the years helps me appreciate the best of both periods in time. Nowadays there's a dominance of the festival by comedy, much of which is good, some of which is less so. Inevitably there will be a lot of derivative and unimaginative comedy amongst that lot, but the fun is in finding the needles in the haystack and I look forward to being impressed and surprised this year. Now to devour that programme. I'll get back to you. Oh, the two shows you must see, of course, are....

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre present not one but two new shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Boo Lingerie - A Socky Horror Show every night at 10.40pm and Chunky Woollen Nits - The Family-Friendly Hour at 11am. Tickets are now on sale, book now!

See all other Socks tour dates in the Scottish Falsetto Socks Gig Guide.

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